Saturday, September 29, 2007

Apologies (well, of sorts)

Although clearly a lot of people cannot be bothered to leave comments, music is being sampled from this blog at a very fast rate and my bandwith has been reached, and is due to be refurbished in ten days.

I will try and sort this out tomorrow, but am off ot bed now.

However, I have just come back from watching King Creosote and Emma Pollock, and have an interview with King Creosote which I will post here asap.

plenty of great blogs listed on the right hand side if you are looking to sample more great music.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Some Covers For Friday Part III

Hey, it's Friday, it's been a good week, and I'm in the mood for sharing so here are some fantastic covers for you all.

First up, I heard Camera Obscura doing this live earlier this year, and it blew me away. They really DO make this their own song.

Camera Obscura -'Super Trooper (Abba cover).' mp3

Electric Light Orchestra are one of those bands that seem to be considered beyond naff, and yet...there's something quite nice about their songs in small doses. Or in this case, in the hands of the much-missed Delgados (RIP).

The Delgados -'Mr. Blue Sky (ELO cover).' mp3

I know very little about this cover, exvcept that The archies were a TV show before I was born, and this was no.1 back in about 1969 -but it's kinda cool, and I'd love to know where I can hear Mary Lou Lord's cover of the Bevis Frond's Lights Are Changing, too.

Mary Lou Lord -'Sugar Sugar [from the Archies].' mp3

You get to hear a lot of music when you write a blog. You also get the chance to hear a lot of stuff that you've been searching for for ages. These two songs were things I had put out pleas for-and ended up in my inbox extremely quickly. Thanks. These were originally recorded for an album for Northern Ireland called 'Peace Together' when the province was a lot more troubled. I love the Peter Gabriel original and also really like Pop Will Eat Itself's take on it (Gabriel's stuff with Genesis was mince though). While I quite like a lot of the Police's stuff (though their solo stuff leaves much to be desired in a certain case, Mr. Sumner) I was never a big fan of this song, until I heard Therapy? do it.

Pop Will Eat Itself -'Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel cover).' mp3

Therapy? -'Invisible Sun (The Police cover).' mp3

There are some great Arcade Fire covers dowing the rounds, I posted their version of Guns Of Brixton earlier this year. This is their take on Bowie's Five Years.

Arcade Fire -'Five Years (David Bowie cover).' mp3

Morrissey was quite passionate about many bands over the years, and famously covered Suede's early b-side 'My Insatiable One' (again, if you know where I can get hold of this, please get in touch) before most people had even heard of Suede. He also bigged up James years before they broke big (although it's long been rumoured that 'We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful' was a dig at them). This song -the b-sde to his 'Pregnant For The Last Time' single -was a cover of a Bradford song.

Morrissey -'Skin Storm (Bradford cover).' mp3

Speaking of seeking out covers...I'd made a plea for this earlier this week and got this, plus another Tori cover into the bargain..

Tori Amos -'Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover).' mp3

Tori Amos -'Happpiness Is A Warm Gun (The Beatles cover).' mp3

Finally. This song (and if I really, really need to spell it out it's 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out') is possibly my very favourite cover version ever. I've no idea what Morrissey -or indeed any of The Smiths think of it - but it's fab in my eyes (or should that be ears?)

Schneider TM -'The Light 3000.' mp3

As always, if you like what you hear, please go and seek it out (it should go without saying that I do not hold the copyright and these are here for sampling only) by supporting the artists involved, preferably through your local record shop!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Interview: Penny Century

The best bands feel and look like a gang.

Think about it: Dexy’s Midnight Runners in their Mean Streets clobber. The Clash in that shot outside the army barracks in Northern Ireland. The Ramones looking like they had just come from a night hustling on the corner of 53rd and 3rd (which if the rumours are true, some of them actually had).

Penny Century look and feel like a gang too, but in their own, sweet way. They formed in a town called Ostersund, in the north of Sweden. And now, before they go on to play a storming gig at the tiny Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh, I’m outside with my iPod and mike, chatting to them.

When I say a gang in their own sweet way, that’s exactly what I mean. They are very much together as a group of friends, but they’re warm and friendly with it, genuinely grateful for what I’ve written about them before, and enjoying the brief tour of the UK of which this will be the final gig.

So, yes, I wrote a four and a half star review of Penny Century’s debut album, Between A Hundred Lies, but that’s because to these ears, it’s an album that is up there with the best of the year; Malcolm Middleton, Emma Pollock, Arcade Fire, Wiley, M.I.A, LCD Soundsystem.

Yes. That good. This ain’t no hyperbole.

So let’s introduce the band: Julia Hanberg is the lead vocalist, Kim Fastesson and Erik Persson on guitars, vocals & lyrics, Pontus Sillren on bass & lyrics, Martin Soderin on drums, and Markus Eriksson on piano and organ.

Their MySpace site has this to say:

‘ Originally playing in different punk, rock or indie-groups the six soon-to-be creators of the most beautiful northern popmusic imaginable met each other in their mid-teens. Since there isn´t much to do in this corner of the world you could by that age either pick up heavy drinking or start writing songs. Penny Century chose booth. It was actually on strangers balconies, in snowstorms on their way to parties or just during friendly afternoon drinking they really learned to know one another.

The songs often revisit this time of coming of age, a time of getting to know yourself and the best of friends at the same time. Other reacurring subjects of the lyrics is family, guilt and love- lost or longed for.
The tunes is the yellowed pictures of a family photoalbum, loveletters that never were sent or just damn good popsongs with great vocals, jangly guitars, soaring melodies and catchy choruses.’

Now, the longer I write about music, the more I find press releases are just so FULL OF IT, rubbish that means absolutely nothing,(other than a press officer who has failed to write in anything but clichés to try and sell an artist, giving me a cynical little laugh in the process).

But this time, it just feels so spot on.

This has been a short tour of one and a half weeks, their first time in the UK. A few days previously they had played Dundee. It had not been a roaring success, ‘the news papers had said a couple of days ago that the venue was closed, ‘ Julia says. ‘Not just closed, shut down!’ the others add, understandably a little frustrated a few days later. But they just put it down to bad luck. They had played a gig in Gosforth in a beer garden, which they liken to playing in Midsommer Murders. ‘He’s a suspect, she’s a suspect!’ they chuckle.

Of course, Penny Century are familiar with small towns, growing up away from the big metropolises that are in the south of Sweden. Hell, anyone who’s lived in a smalltown anywhere in the world knows that a survival instinct of sorts has to kick in, somehow. And it’s not about dealing with a dog-eat-dog world of the big city, but more about the fight for the right to dare to be an individual, in an insular world where being different can be all the excuse some meatheads need. I ask them about where they grew up. Was it a case of Alcoholism or music, and you chose music, with a little bit of alcohol on the side? ‘You could say that!’ They all went to the same school, and had played in various bands together, apart from Julia who says this is her first band.

Sweden has of course, produced a lot of great music over the years. The mighty Abba (and if you think I’m being ironic about that, I’ll come round and get you), The Wannadies, The Cardigans being some of the more high profile acts (let’s forget about the purveyors of ‘It Must Have Been Love’ and er, ‘The Final Countdown.’ God knows I’m still trying to). Do they see themselves as being part of a Swedish scene?

‘No, we are totally unique. We feel more Swedish than other bands when we are here.’

Do they feel compared to the Cardigans? ‘Yes, just because it’s a girl,’ says Julia, clearly a little weary of this. Perhaps understandably. By way of justification, the band point out that the Cardigans and Abba sound quite slick. This might come as a surprise to those people who have only heard their album - but it’s quite clear that Penny Century see themselves as being a punk band almost, and that’s the goal for their next record. Seeing them live, they do rock far more than the gentle pastoral indie pop of

Although they have put out four EPS in Sweden, they now find themselves in the ironic position that their album actually has to be imported into Sweden. The EPs they now tend to view as demos. I ask if they plan to release them in the UK, but it’s clear that it’s not high on their list of priorities right now.

This leads me to ask about one of the songs that is downloadable from their website ‘Summer Outside.’ It features the somewhat disturbing line ‘If I’m gonna suffocate, please let me see my strangler’s face.’ Is this dealing with domestic violence?

‘It’s more about your own ghosts, the ones you can’t see. The things that always scare you, that you can’t always control.’

We talk about the scene in Sweden. Whilst this may not get much coverage in the British media, there are certainly parallels, in that while bands may form in small, out of the way places where it can be quite hard to get a gig, they often end up gravitating to the big cities, like Malmo, Gothenburg, and of course, the capital Stockholm. Would they consider moving to Stockholm, to advance their career?

‘Been there, done that,’ chuckles Pontus. ‘We were in Stockholm for a year, then we lost the apartment and had to move back.’ But they indicate that they probably will move back there when they return to Sweden. But they hope to return to the UK, they’ve had a great response. And they deserve it!

‘You’re in for a real treat!’ they say before they go on stage, and indeed I am.

Both on album and live, Penny Century fulfil my expectations and more. Make a little room in your heart for them.

Penny Century -'Nothing Burns Like Bridges.' mp3

Penny Century -'What I Never Learned To Say.' mp3

Penny Century -'Tangled Up In My Sheets.' mp3

Penny Century -'Summer Outside.' mp3

Penny Century's album Between A Hundred Lies is out now on Letterbox Records.

It can be ordered here

Penny Century's MySpace is here

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tom Waits... For Everyone!

Just a quick post tonight, as I have spent the evening with Mrs. 17 Seconds clothes shopping and trying to organise stuff for my students tomorrow.

Needless to say, when out shopping I couldn't resist a quick look round a record shop, and Mrs. 17 Seconds bought me a CD, Mule Variations by Tom Waits.

I have long enjoyed Tom Waits' fantastic music, but he's produced a lot of albums. Quite why I haven't bought this I have no idea. I actually prefer the later Waits stuff to the early: the voice is gruffer, the music is rawer, and quite often more experimental, and sadness or happiness, he just makes it sound like no-one else. So many white men try to sing the blues (don't get me started on Eric Clapton's oeuvre post about 1970, to say nothing of some of his dodgy political remarks), Waits doesn't need to try.

If you have heard this album before, I'm preaching to the converted. But if you haven't, go buy this album tomorrow (or maybe your loved one will buy it for you!)

Tom Waits -'Big In Japan.' mp3

Tom Waits -'Hold On.' mp3

Tom Waits -'House Where Nobody Lives.' mp3

For more on Tom Waits, including more mp3s, go here

Make sure you buy the album if you like these tracks, preferably from an independent record shop!

Monday, September 24, 2007

From the Angels Of Light

Of all the late seventies-early eighties No Wave bands, the toughest and most uncompromising of the lot were held to be The Swans. Notorious for shows and music that were confrontational, and songs like 'Raping A Slave' (yes, you did read that right), Michael Gira and his not so merry men (and one woman, Jarboe) were one of those bands whose reputation is still infamous years later.

So it might come as a shock for those who haven't followed Gira's post-Swans career particularly closely (and I have to admit, I am no authority) but having read a review in The Wire, I had to get the latest album.

And I'm kinda smitten with his work. He now writes his songs on the acoustic guitar, as well as running his seminal Young Gods label in New York. These songs are well-worth hearing and have quite lush arrangements, without giving you the feeling that he's got soft in his old age.

From the latest album We Are Him

Angels Of Light -'Black River Song.' mp3

Angels Of Light -'The Man We Left Behind.' mp3

Angels Of Light -'Not Here Not Now.' mp3

And two older tracks:

Angels Of Light -'Praise Your Name.' mp3 from New Mother

Angels Of Light -'My True Body.' mp3 (from How I Loved You)

and a Swans track too...

Swans -'Sex God Sex.' mp3

Young God Records are here

Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Apology

You never know quite whose reading a blog.

Sure, you know from the people that leave comments and there are various things you can do to track readers, but sometimes you don't know who's reading, until some follow-up happens.

This morning Mrs 17 Seconds and I came in from doing our weekly food shop, to find a phone message from Mother Seconds, asking if I was ok, as she had just been reading 17 Seconds, and I had said I was stressed, and was I OK?

Well, I was touched she had rung to ask. I'd managed to unwind slightly over the weekend.

And then embarassed that I had forgotten her and Father seconds' wedding anniversary a few days ago.

So folks, these are few you. lots of love, a lot of apologies and hopefully we will have spoken by the time you read this. Hell, I've dedicated several posts to Mrs 17 Seconds and Brother Seconds, it's time you had one too.

The Beatles -'A Hard day's Night.' mp3

Abba -'The Winner Takes It All.' mp3

Bob Dylan -'Like A Rolling Stone.' mp3

And our family favourite...Tom Lehrer:

Tom Lehrer -'Poisoning Pigeons In The Park.' mp3

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Album Review: P J Harvey

Album Review: PJ Harvey 'White Chalk' (Universal Island)

More than fifteen years into her career, each new PJ Harvey album is rightly greeted with interest and expectation. She intrigued us all from the moment she arrived -even as a fifteen year old male, there was something that seemed more feminist than titillation about 'that' naked picture in NME, and songs like 'Sheela-Na-Gig' ('You EXHIBITIONIST!) and 'Water' showed someone whose music was intriguing, raw and honest, yet still unsettling. And then came the second album Rid Of Me.

Each of her albums genuinely stands alone and on it's own merits. 1995's To Bring You My Love took Beefheart's mould and made her own, 2000's Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea seemed almost commercial but distinctively her again.

And so here we have Polly Jean in 2007. Although produced with long-term collaborators Flood and John Parrish, this is yet again, a PJ Harvey record like none we have heard before. This is still striking music, but this time the rock, groove and electronics have all disappeared. This album has far more in common with early twentieth century classical music than anything she has done before. This time, the record is largely dominated by piano and her voice.

This record, at 34 minutes, is shorter than others she has produced, but there is something warm lurking underneath the initially stark audio. This will perhaps come as a shock to those most familiar with singles like 'Good Fortune' or 'Down By The Water' but this record continues the trajectory of a performer and songwriter who is much less bothered about pigeonholes, genres and categorisation than parts of her audience might be. There is a mystery and beauty about this record, and I think further, repeated listens will perhaps coax a few of its' secrets out.


White Chalk is released on Monday September 24 in the UK on Universal Island.

PJ Harvey -'The Devil.' mp3

PJ Harvey -'Grow Grow Grow.' mp3

PJ Harvey -'White Chalk.' mp3

Friday, September 21, 2007

Love Is In The Air


Seriously, do not worry, 17 Seconds is not going all Hello/OK/Heat magazine or whatever on you, but the news that Simon Taylor from The Klaxons is to marry his girlfriend, Lovefoxxx from CSS meant an opportunity to post a few tracks here:

Klaxons -'Atlantis To Interzone.' mp3

CSS -'Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above.' mp3

CSS -'Alala.' mp3

And perhaps a cover version apiece, eh?

Klaxons -'Not Over Yet (Grace cover).' mp3

CSS -'One Way Or Another (Blondie cover).' mp3

The Klaxons and CSS debuts are out now (have been for ages). If you like what you hear here, please support them through your local independent record shop, tours, t-shirts etc..

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where have I been?

Where have I been? How come Bat For Lashes have barely registered on my radar until the last few days? God knows. Anyway...these are beautiful gorgeous songs that I am happy to welcome into my life.

Very brief post today as am stresses up to the eyeballs with way, way to much to do, and in desperate need of sleep. But I think these songs will be trying to keep me sane.


Bat For Lashes - 'What's a Girl To Do?' mp3

Bat For Lashes - 'Prescilla.' mp3

Bat For Lashes - 'Sarah.' mp3

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Please to hear before the hits

Like a lot of people, for years my main inpression of Steeleye Span was hits like 'Gaudete' (one of only two songs ever sung in Latin to make the UK Top 50, the other being Sadness Pt.1 by Enigma) and 'All Around My Hat.'

But like so many bands before and after, this was only part of the story. The band's second album Please To See The King, released in 1971, featured not only ex-Fairport Convention member Ashley Hutchings and Maddy Prior's dulcet tones and Tin Hart, but also new recruits Peter Knight on mandolin and folk legend Martin Carthy on guitar. There were no drums on the album but there was invention aplenty. The Wire 282 highlights this as one of the great English psychedelic folk albums, as folk's main players proved they were as capable of being forward-thinking as Miles Davis or The Beatles.

Hear these and enjoy:

Steeleye Span -'The Blacksmith.' mp3

Steeleye Span -'Cold, Haily, Windy Night.' mp3

Steeleye Span -'Prince Charlie Stuart.' mp3

Go buy it, dammit!

Clutching for definitions

It's odd to think I'd barely heard much John Martyn at the start of this year. Sure, I knew the name and had heard one or two tracks, but having borrowed a 'best-of' from the library (My local library has some excellent stuff that has enabled me to educate myself about all sorts of stuff I'd barely heard for about 60p, roughly $1.20 in US Dollars per CD for three weeks) I had to investigate further. I loved One World and Grace and Danger too, but of the studio albums I have heard so far, I think 1973's Solid Air is my favourite of what I have heard.

Why did I call this post clutching for definitions? Because the more I investigate John Martyn's music, the more I realise that just as 'pop' and 'indie' are ever increasingly vague, so too are folk and jazz. There are a lot of folk and jazz influences on Solid Air, and as well as Martyn's voice and guitar playing which are pretty damn gorgeous, Danny Thompson's double bass playing is stunning too. The title track was about Martyn's friend Nick Drake, who Thompson had played with, with another of 17 Seconds' favourites, Richard Thompson.

I would urge you to go and buy this album-which you can almost certainly pick up very reasonably (it can be downloaded for £5.49 from iTunes UK, for example, though I'd rather you supported your local record store).

I hope these whet your appetite:

John Martyn - 'Solid Air.' mp3

John Martyn - 'I'd Rather Be the Devil.' mp3

John Martyn -'May You Never.' mp3

Music and pain never sounded so good, so beautiful, so lovely.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

And some more covers...with reflection

(The Vaselines, looking rather like The Velvets here, I think)

As Andrew said, Beatles covers are always welcome.

What function, if any do covers serve?

For some acts, it's the chance to revive a flagging career. For others, the chance to show versatility or to raise funds for anyone whose career they are indebted to.

And what about the listeners? Do they have anything to gain?

Well, I don't know how many Nirvana fans were led to investigate Shocking Blue, whose track 'Love Buzz' was covered for Nirvana's first ever release. I do know that Nirvana covering 'Molly's Lips' 'Jesus Wants Me for A Sunbeam' (though Nirvana changed it to 'doesn't') and 'Son Of a Gun' led to me checking out The Vaselines and the Raincoats, who definitely made more of an impression on me than The Meat Puppets.

As for the other tracks, well, I already knew the Beatles and Bowie, but hey...they kinda fitted with the post. And Siouxsie and the Banshees led me to Iggy Pop, The Sparks, Roxy Music, even Billie Holliday...

Nirvana -'Molly's Lips (Vaselines cover).' mp3

Nirvana -'Son Of A Gun (Vaselines cover).' mp3

Nirvana -'The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie cover).' mp3

Nirvana -'Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (leadbelly cover).' mp3

Siouxsie and the Banshees -'Helter Skelter (The Beatles cover).' mp3

Siouxsie and the Bandshees -'Dear Prudence.' mp3

As always, if you like what you hear, SUPPORT THE ARTISTS!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Some Covers For Monday II

Hell, now that maybe one or two more people are reading this blog, a few more covers I thought I'd repost:

Foo Fighters -'Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty cover).' mp3

Placebo -'Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover).' mp3

Futureheads -'Let's Dance (David Bowie cover).' mp3

The Raincoats -'Lola (The Kinks cover).' mp3

Sonic Youth -' Superstar (The Carpenters cover).' mp3

Idlewild -'I Found That Essence Rare (Gang Of Four cover).' mp3

Ian Brown -'Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover).' mp3

And one I haven't posted before...

The Fall -'A Day In The Life (The Beatles cover).' mp3

Enjoy. And as always, if you like what you hear, support the artists through your local independent record shop.

Hooray! It's a holi, holi-day (well, it feels like one)

Much excitement at 17 Seconds towers: 17 Seconds really did make it into the blog roll at The Guardian on Saturday, as did regular comments leavers Song, By Toad and the Vinyl Villain.

So, some songs to celebrate:

U2-'A Celebration.' mp3

Happy Mondays -'Hallelujah (Club Mix).' mp3

Kelis -'Good Stuff.' mp3

James Brown -'Sex Machine.' mp3

And of course, the song that gave this blog its name:

The Cure -'Seventeen Seconds.' mp3

As always, if you like the song, support the artists involved.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Album Review: Swimmer One

Album Review: Swimmer One -'The Regional Variations.' (Biphonic)

And it's here at last! The debut album from Swimmer One has been four years in the making, but I hope when you hear it you will feel it has been worth the wait. They've been fed up with people comparing them to New Order, and listening to this album, it's clear that all they have in common is sounding a bit electronic (as opposed to Electronic, obviously). These eleven songs build on the promise of their two early singles to show how beautiful sadness can be, and how wonderful Swimmer One are. This is the aural equivalent of a walk that enables you to see how wonderful the world is. Gorgeous, gentle electronic pop music that is heartfelt without being sappy, and yields more with every listen. Please make 'Largs Hum' a single, guys!


Hear Swimmer One here

Read my Interview with Swimmer One here

Some mellow stuff for Sunday

So, it's Sunday, so time for two very different artists to be foistered upon you.

First up, legendary member of the Incredible String Band, Robin Williamson.

I had been aware of the Incredible String Band for a long time, but hadn't really closely listened to any of their albums, until I read a feature in The Wire a few months ago on Robin Williamson. There were six tracks of his solo stuff on their site, so I devoured these and set about sampling all the albums through my local library. See what you think of the bard:

From Skirting the River Road

Robin Williamson -'The Four Points Are Thus Beheld.' mp3

Robin Williamson -'The Journey.' mp3

From The Iron Stone

Robin Williamson -'Bacchus.' mp3

Robin Williamson -'The Climber.' mp3

From The Seed At Zero

Robin Williamson -'The Seed At Zero.' mp3

Robin Williamson -'The Barley.' mp3

And now for something completely different...

I don't know if you would call Maps shoegazing or Electronica or both, even, but i think they would appeal to fans of both genres. I love these three tracks, and think you should give these a spin (from the album We Can Create:

Maps-'You Don't Know Her Name.' mp3

Maps-'Eloise.' mp3

Maps-'It Will Find You.' mp3

As always, if you like what you hear, check out you local independent record shop.

Have a good week!


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Some Covers For Saturday Part III

Some cover versions, seeing as it's a Saturday, then?

First up, riffling through some CD singles reminded me of how much I loved Gene when I was twenty and how many cover versions they did at the time...

Gene -'The Ship Song (Nick Cave cover).' mp3

Gene -'Nightswimming (REM cover).' mp3

Gene -'Wastleland (The Jam cover).' mp3

A Scots indie classic:

Paul Quinn and Edwyn Collins -'Pale Blue Eyes (Velvet Underground cover).' mp3

I wonder if sticking anything U2-related will send my Bandwith mental yet again...

Johnny Cash -'One (U2 cover).' mp3

One day i will have a big Alex Chilton fest here. Till then...

This Mortal Coil -'I Am The Cosmos (Chris Bell cover).' mp3

Former Pixies frontman launches solo career with cover:

Frank Black -'Hang Onto Your Ego (Beach Boys cover).' mp3

And more Jam related stuff:

Buffalo Tom -'Going Underground (The Jam cover).' mp3

I've posted this before, but it does rock...

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club -'The Hardest Button To Button (Live )(White Stripes cover).' mp3

This one can turn two very different perceptions on their heads...

Arab Strap -'You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC cover).' mp3

This will be up for one week only, enjoy!


Album Review: Hard-Fi

Album Review: Hard-Fi 'Once Upon A Time In The West' (Necessary/Atlantic)

For anyone who thinks I only ever write positive reviews, this is definitely not one of them. And I write this with a real sense of disappointment.

In 2005, when Hard-Fi released their debut album, Stars of CCTV, it rightly attracted positive reviews and commercial success, dragging along increasing numbers to shows. When a colleague in the music department at the school where I was teaching at the time was teaching them how to play 'Cash Machine' I knew Hard-Fi seemed to have made it.

Yet somehow, the follow-up just does not do it. It should be stated that it's not an awful album, but it's not a satisfying album. The songs are not bad, but feel like an album of offcuts from ...CCTV. They may work better live, but the production here removes any sense of edge. Tellingly, first single 'Suburban Knights' is the best thing here.

Of course, it's worth remembering that history has produced many bands whose second albums have been disappointing. Two that spring to mind are the Jam's This Is The Modern World and The Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope. These are two bands you can safely bet have influenced Hard-Fi and whose third albums pretty much confirmed their place in the canyons of the greats.

I'll still go and see you live, guys, but please, for your next album, remember what made you great. This is a disappointment. And it hurts to write that.


Hard-Fi -'Suburban Knights.' mp3

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Album Review: M.I.A.

Album Review -M.I.A 'Kala.' (XL Recordings)

In 2005, M.I.A released her debut album Arular. It was an album that demanded attention, uncompromising yet catchy, hard as nails, yet utterly irresisitible. Hell, even the skits on the record were worth it. Named after her Dad, too.

And two years later, she delivers a second album Kala, named after her Mum, that shows she hans't stood still at all. She continues to draw on her Sri Lankan heritage to deliver cooler than thou raps, yet this album is truely world music, recorded across three continents and mixing in some fantastic samples that include didgeridoos, indian pop, and Jonathan Richman and the Clash.

'Jimmy' could get any disco moving, and 'Mango Pickle Down River' reminds us that there's indigenous music being produced in Australia that deserves a bigger hearing. From the opener 'Bamboo banga' to the closing 'Come Around' featuring producer du jour Timbaland, this is one of the most essential albums you will hear this year.


M.I.A. -'Bamboo Banga.' mp3

M.I.A. -'Mango Pickle Down River (withthe Wilcannia Mob).' mp3

Interview: Emma Pollock

Emma Pollock, photographed by Jenny Lewis, 2007

They say ‘You should never meet your idols.’ What if they don’t live up to your expectations? What if someone you have admired for donkey’s years turns out not to be so admirable? What if you’ve put your trust in, erm, false idols?

Well, 17 seconds got to meet the high priestess of the Scottish indie scene, Emma Pollock. And it turns out that she’s utterly down to earth, prepared to meet for not one but two chats with this humble Scottish blog to chat about her solo debut, Watch The Fireworks, the break-up of the Delgados, and much more besides…

We first meet in Edinburgh one hot late afternoon, where she’s driven (herself) over to appear at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. She picks me up from my flat and we head to a café with her young son in tow (sensibly named).

Once coffee has been ordered, I begin by asking her about the Ballads Of the Book album, the collaboration of Scottish acts who have set music to new poems by Scottish writers, curated by Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble. It’s not the first time that she has collaborated with Poets, last year she toured as part of an English Arts Council group called Phrased and Confused. ‘That was a very interesting thing to do. I’m not sure how well it worked,’ she says, a little uncertainly, ‘but one of the things that came out of it for me was the song ‘A Glorious Day.’ ‘ This song, bizarrely relegated to the b-side of her first debut single ‘Adrenaline’ had been one of the highlights of her solo show at Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire a few days previously. ‘ When you’ve got the lyrics already there…you’ve got the parameters already fixed. The melody can come across a lot more conversationally if there’s a lot of words to try and get in. Whereas normally I would try and write the music first.’

This leads me onto what is already apparent from the few tracks that have been heard before the album comes out: the tracks are a lot more piano driven than the work she did with The Delgados. Was this a conscious decision? Amazingly, it seems she barely played the piano before this album.
‘If you don’t know how to play an instrument, you end up playing chords that you don’t know what they’re called, and you tend to keep them.’ There’s now a different approach generally as a solo artist. ‘With The Delgados, there were songs I tended to take a back seat on, and songs that I didn’t.’ Now although she’s assembled a live band, there’s a definite feeling that she’s a solo artist, which she says she finds both terrifying and liberating.

The Delgados started up their own label, Chemikal Underground, in 1994, to release their debut single ’Monica Webster.’ The roster over the years has included some of the best music from Scotland, but most definitely further afield as well, from then on. She’s still continues to run the label but admits that she hasn’t been into the office for a while. Yet as a solo artist, she’s signed to the legendary indie 4AD. ’ She’d been a big fan of the label since her school days. ‘I was a really big fan of The Breeders and The Pixies. They were hugely influential of my decision to start playing. I was also really influenced by Pavement, the American scene. Ironically, although 4AD is a label which originated in Britain, it soon became synonymous with the American scene.’ Though doubly ironically, many of the acts, most notably The Pixies, made a bigger impact more quickly in the UK than their homeland.

I ask her if she’s prepared to discuss The Delgados, mindful of the fact that songs like ‘Acid Test’ and ‘Fortune’ deal with her frustration and unsettlement after the split of the band. She’s quite comfortable to talk about this. I ask her if there’s likely to be a farewell tour, as she has said that she doesn’t think they really said goodbye. ‘No,’ she‘s quietly. ‘It took me a long time to get over the idea that so much of life is chance. You can work hard and get a reward, and then realise it’s all gone. I do believe there’s a fair element of chance involved as well as the necessity to work hard.’

Her solo debut, when I hear it, is a stunning piece of work that deserves to be up there with the likes of Malcolm Middleton and Penny Century. It’s sufficiently still a showcase for her work that should keep Delgados fans happy and also win her fans in her own right. There’s sufficiently enough of both quiet and load moments, as with her old band. ‘For all our loud moments, we [The Delgados] certainly knew when to keep quiet.’

Having chatted for twenty minutes, we have to break off, as she has to appear at the Book Festival to promote Ballads Of The Book and then head off to appear at both legs of the V festival in Staffordshire. Over the next two weeks, we try to arrange a time to catch up. To her eternal credit, it is she who rings me to try and confirm times, rescheduling once when she is offered a last minute slot at Connect. When I’d told her that I hadn’t been sent a promo copy of the album, she’d actually taken my address and got her PR company to send it out to me.

We catch up again at the beginning of September in Glasgow, near to where she and her family live on the south side of the city. By this time I’ve heard the album, and been enjoying digesting it.

‘[Connect] was very last minute.’ She was actually the first act on, on the second stage. It’s the first year that Connect has run, and she says she found it a lovely site. It sounds like the set went down well. ‘There was a crowd for the soundtrack, which was funny. Then I played to people, it went down well, it was good fun.’ Much better than V07, which she found a very mainstream festival. Appearing on a small stage, she only got a small crowd. ‘You get generous audiences earlier on, but it kind of thins out towards the evening. Amy MacDonald] apparently had a small audience -and you can buy her CD in the supermarket!’ she says, amused at the thought. At least it wasn’t violent like The Delgados’ experience of the first T in the Park, when it was held in Strathclyde Park. ‘That’s a park you don’t want to be in after dark.’ It transpires that her bandmate Alun Woodward got punched after providing the wrong answer to someone who asked him which football team he supported. ‘How do you answer that on the west coast of Scotland?’ she asks, incredulous at the narrow mindedness and ugliness that can spoil life in Scotland.

Although she was born in Perth, she was raised in Castle Douglas, before coming to study at University in Glasgow. Chemikal Underground was run from her and Paul Savage’s kitchen table, including when Bis famously got on Top of the Pops with ‘Kandy pop.’ They’ve subsequently relocated, and she’s proud that they’ve been there the longest of any company in the block they are now based in. They’ve certainly had a major impact on the landscape of the independent scene, being responsible for signing Mogwai and Arab Strap, amongst many others. She agrees that there is perhaps a perception of them as being a Scottish label - but is quick to point out that bands like Magoo and the Radar Brothers weren’t Scottish. The Delgados reached the hallowed portals of the number one spot in John Peel’s Festive Fifty in 1998, with ‘Pull The Wires From The Wall.’ The memory of this is still special to her, if a little bizarre: she was in the supermarket when she got the call.
I ask her about what the rest of the year involves, and it sounds pretty busy. She’s going to be supporting King Creosote in the UK and then the New Pornographers in the US, and ‘Paper and Glue’ will likely be the third single off the album.

We head off from the café together, and she’s good enough to accompany me back to me car to sign my copy of The Great Eastern, the album for which The Delgados were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2000. Ultimately they were beaten to it by Badly Drawn Boy’s debut The Hour Of Bewilderbeast. For the last thirteen years, this friendly and important singer and musician has made staggeringly great music. It would be nice to think that the commercial recognition will follow with this album.

Emma Pollock's official website is here and her MySpace is here

Emma Pollock -'Adrenaline.' mp3

Emma Pollock -'Limbs.' mp3

Watch The Fireworks will be released by 4AD on September 17.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Five for Tuesday

My brain is turning to mush. This picture above has very little to do with anything, other than I put 'Tuesday' into Google Image and this was one that it came up with...

I was trying to think of a theme for a post today, but then I thought: Sod it, let's give 'em five tracks. If you like them, do leave some feedback, my bandwith is certainly disappearing at a fast rate of knots, but it would be nice to have some comments on here.

These first two tracks are from bands I know nothing about (info gratefully received etc..) but I think they're excellent:

Dykehouse -'Chainsmoking.' mp3

The Fitness -'Chauffeur.' mp3

I'm no expert on house music, but even I know this is regarded as being pretty seminal. And covered by the X-Vectors as well...

Frankie Knuckles -'Your Love.' mp3

This track features the vocals of my all-time hero Robert Smith:

Paul Hartnoll -'Please (featuring Robert Smith).' mp3

And finally, a song still sounding astonishing nearly thirty years later:

The Pop Group -'She Is Beyond Good And Evil.' mp3

As always, if you like what you hear, go and seek the artists out, at your local independent record shop!

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's not against any religion, to want to dispose of a pigeon

Tom Lehrer about to poison Pigeons in a Park (not really)

Well, it's probably against aspects of many of them but only if you interpret it that way...

All credit to my wonderful parents that unlike many of those I went to school with (whether friends or not) that instead of subjecting their children to turgid rock or sickly stuff like Celine Dion, somehow the might of the mighty Tom Lehrer sunk his way into my subconscious at a very early age, and my brother's at an even younger. What with my Mum dropping me on my head as a baby, growing up with Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister and eating meat until I was's amazing I'm still here.

Tom Lehrer sent up the American Establishment in a musical style not hugely dissimilar to Ben Folds jamming with Jello Biafra and with a humour that makes many punk bands seem frankly po-faced. Hell, the man could sing about incest ('Oedipus Rex'), Vatican II ('The Vatican Rag') or Masochism ('the masochism Tango') and still be bloody funny.

Read about Tom Lehrer at Wikipedia.

Check out these mp3s, and see what you've been missing all these years.

first up, one to make you realise that you might know one of his songs

Tom Lehrer -'The Elements.' mp3

One of his most famous songs;

Tom Lehrer -'Poisoning Pigeons In The Park.' mp3

Families? who needs 'em!

Tom Lehrer -'The Irish Ballad.' mp3

'Fracture your spine and say you'll be mine, as we dance to

Tom Lehrer -'The Masochism Tango.' mp3

And of course, in the fifties, nuclear war was the only way to go (actually, that might still be true)

Tom Lehrer -'We Will All Go Together When We Go.' mp3

If you like this, and have discovered that North Americans Do do irony after all, then go buy The Remains Of Tom Lehrer CD boxset.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Happy Birthday to brother 17 Seconds

It's my brother's birthday tomorrow, and so this post is for him. these tunes aren't about him, but stuff I know he likes, and stuff I think he will like... : ))

Miles Davis -'So What.' mp3

John Cale -'Paris 1919.' mp3

Love Is All -'Make Out.Fall Out. Make Up.' mp3

Red Hot Chili Peppers -'Under The Bridge.' mp3

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci -'Spanish Dance Troupe.' mp3

Sparks -'This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us.' mp3

Holger Czukay -'Cool In the Pool.' mp3

Aretha Franklin -'Rocksteady.' mp3

James Yorkston And The Atheletes -'St. Patrick.' mp3

Jeff Buckley - 'Hallelujah.' mp3

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Interview: Katie Sutherland

Back in May this year, I went along to see Emma Pollock at Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh. The support act that night was Katie Sutherland, who wowed us all from the moment she stepped on stage. Appearing as a solo singer-songwriter with a guitar as a support at gigs anywhere can be tricky: the apathy that support acts may encounter even if they are fully electrified can be made even worse for performers as they get drowned out by people talking. Yet, almost from the second she walked on stage, Katie Sutherland silenced us, drawing us in with her voice and songs.

Last Friday I saw her again, as support to Penny Century at Henry’s Cellar bar in Edinburgh. After another stunning solo set, I got the chance to talk to her and her manager John Gallagher about what they’ve been up to.

In the flesh, she’s a little shy, but very friendly and willing to elaborate on what she’s been up to. Manager John is down-to-earth to, and someone who’s clearly working very hard to get his charge to the top.

Katie was born and raised in Kirkintilloch, where she’s still based, though as she says ‘I’ve been in London quite a lot lately, doing some song writing.’ It was John who helped her to get her career launched by recording her four of her songs and stuck them on MySpace, which as she says ‘went down a treat.’ MySpace has clearly done a lot to help a lot of bands. Whilst not mentioning names, there are those who have made out that they are MySpace successes, but have done it all with the support of a major label. The same cannot be said of Katie, but support from a record label cannot be far away.

She’s clearly been writing a lot of fantastic songs -on Friday night’s gig she’s introduced three new ones into the set, including one that was just finished that day. I can’t resist asking her about ‘Mr. Lecturer,’ which she has been playing at gigs for a few months now, and which is my favourite song of hers. It still hasn’t been recorded, though she has been busy, networking in London and holidaying for two weeks in Mexico, and promises to let me know when it‘s done. She’s also due to play Connect festival the day after we speak, which seems to have gone down well too.

However, London may be where she ends up spending more of her time. For better or worse, it is still the hub of the music scene in the UK. She’s currently in discussion with people in London about both publishing and record deals. She won’t reveal who, though. ‘I probably shouldn’t tell you about that!’ she says, shyly. I wouldn’t want to tempt fate, I tell her, though if she hasn’t got a record deal in the bag by Christmas, then there is something very rotten going on.

As well as playing to record and publishing companies, She’s been collaborating with various people in London, including Marty beddenbrock who co-wrote with Paolo Nutini and Dido, and Paul Statham who has worked with Dido and Kylie Minogue. I ask her if she likes Dido, and she admits that she bought her two albums. John is clearly not a fan. I can’t resist asking if she’s throttled any record executives in London for comparing her to a certain ’brown-haired singer from Fife.’ She and manager John laugh at this -‘I’ll take that as a yes, then. ‘ We’ve got a wee chip going on there,‘ says John casually.

One of the problems that can be thrown up by record companies who have an attitude of ‘We Love You, You’re Perfect, (And We Just Want To Change Everything About You To Make US lots of money). Has she encountered people who want to mould her, and want to her compromise her sound?
’I thought it would be like that,’ she says, ’ but a lot of the record labels have been great. You’ve already written songs and they love it.’
John clarifies: ’ We’re quite clear [about what it is that they are going for in a record contract]. When we go to record companies we say that this is what we’re going for, what can you give us?’

Currently at gigs, Katie performs largely solo, with one or two occasional contributions from John and others. Is she is looking to assemble a live band to play with her?
‘Definitely but just now is ‘writing, writing, writing.’ Occasionally she plays live with other people like Blair ’a MySpace addition’ and John plays ‘when someone can’t fill in for a gig. In terms of live, that’s not what I want to be doing, ’ he explains.

Does she feel any pressure on her to relocate to London, even though there’s a fertile scene in Scotland? ‘It is tempting, actually,’ she says. She talks warmly about London, saying ‘ I really enjoy London, but I don’t know if I could live there. Glasgow’s great, she says, with obvious affection. ‘The music scene’s fantastic!’ Well, we knew that, but of course, she’s now part of it, and hopefully her profile will rise even higher.

So what of actually records of her own? There have been rumours of an EP, a version of which has been sold at gigs.
‘Oh man! The EP’s been delayed,’ she says. ‘But hopefully it will be out in the next couple of months.’

I wrap up the interview. She’s got two more gigs coming up that weekend, and more on later. The friends who were with me to see her supporting Emma Pollock had returned with me that evening. That’s a major vote of confidence in an -as yet-unsigned solo singer, but this state of affairs cannot remain that way for long. See her in small intimate surroundings while you get the chance.
And just for the record, she’s nothing at all like a certain brown-haired singer from Fife. OK?

Katie Sutherland's MySpace is here.

These two tracks of hers should be played to everyone who has ears.

Katie Sutherland -'Because I Do.' mp3

Katie Sutherland -'The Roses.' mp3

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Another quick blast of a soundtrack

...this time from another gorgeous film, Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas.

Gorgeous, dreamy film, and gorgeous dreamy soundtrack from Ry Cooder. Both worth investigating.

Ry Cooder -'Paris, Texas.' mp3

Ry Cooder -'Brothers.' mp3

Have very nearly finished writing up interview with Katie Sutherland. watch this space...

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Song For September

I have done a few posts on albums I consider to be underrated classics. I have to be honest that I do not think Ash's Nu-Clear Sounds is either, but there are a couple of great tracks on the album.

So, given that this is the great 'lost' Ash song as far as I am concerned, I give you:

Ash -'Folk Song.' mp3

And the lead-off single from the album:

Ash- 'Jesus Says.' mp3

You can probably pick up this album very cheaply from somewhere. And it's worth it for these two tracks.

just to whet your appetite, I have come back this evening from interviewing none other than Emma Pollock, so keep your eye on this blog!

Not to mention interviews with Katie Sutherland, The Amateurs and Penny Century...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Album Review: Emma Pollock

Album Review: Emma Pollock - Watch The Fireworks (4AD)

( There was, as you may imagine, much joy when an advance copy of Emma Pollock's solo debut album arrived on the mat at 17 Seconds towers. Three listens later, I have this to say:)

Emma Pollock's debut builds upon the excitement and sheer joy of her solo gigs and first two singles to arrive and confirm that they were no fluke. As first single 'Adrenaline' ably demonstrated, the keyboards take much more of a role here than they did on the five albums she made leading The Delgados, and the rush of erm, Adrenaline that the opening arpegios of that song triggers is replicated across this eleven track album.

The Delgados were much loved by those who heard them, and second single (and indeed second track) deals with her feelings of dealing with the break-up of that band (the other three members of which she still runs seminal Glasgow record label Chemikla Underground with). 'Acid Test' with its' edgy, nervous guitar lines is perhaps the most reminiscent of that band, in a good way, but she has surely moved on and produced a record that must surely win her new fans in her own right. Likely next single 'Paper and Glue' and the gorgeous 'Limbs' are amongst other highlights on this record, which is a truely addictive listen. Stunning live track 'The Optimist' closes Fireworks. Her skill remains that she can convey emotions without ever descending to cliche or schmaltz. In this world, that's a bloody miracle.

Memorably described by Song, By Toad as 'The High Priestess of the scottish indie scene' Emma Pollock shows here that she can certainly cut it on her own, and this record has been worth the wait.


Watch The Fireworks will be released by 4AD on September 17. In the meantime, these two mp3s must be heard.

Emma Pollock -'Adrenaline.' mp3

Emma Pollock -'Limbs.' mp3

Gig review: Penny Century/Amateurs/Katie Sutherland

Gig review: Penny Century/Amateurs/Katie Sutherland

Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh, August 31 2007

It has been an absolutely amazing month of gig-going here at 17 Seconds, with a lot going on. September may be quieter in this respect (it usually this). But this was a great way to bid farewell to the end of a month with so many and seeing two bands I have raved about on here finally and seeing one of the most talented singer-songwriters I have heard in ages on here too. This gig was put on by Edinburgh-based promoters Trampoline, who deserve to be getting more coverage for the hard slog they are doing.

Katie Sutherland blew me away when I saw her supporting Emma Pollock three months ago, and she does so again tonight. Still in her teens, this Kirkintilloch-born and raised singer-songwriter has receiving a lot of interest from South of the border in the last few months. She starts with Mr. Lecturer, whihc was the standout song for me from the last gig (alas, still unrecorded), and also plays three new ones: Mango Tree, Cocktails and a new one that she has apparently just finsihed writing this very day. She tells us that the Roses is about the good things in life 'like Chips and Cheese and Curry Sauce (girl after my own heart. Apart from the curry sauce). 'Because I Do' still lingers too.

Edinburgh's The Amateurs have some absolutely gorgeous songs on their debut, self-titled album. 'The Water Of Leith Song' is perhaps the most gorgeous of the lot live, though 'Things You Only Know If You Don't Drive' is pretty fab too. Singer and Guitarist Seth Chanas has written some amazing songs, but the absolute jewel in the crown is the voice of Sarah Weatherston. Their album is due to be released in the next few weeks, having been completed over a year ago. Friends, Readers, Bloggers, lend it your ears. Though there are one or two troubles due to the fact that they didn't get a soundtrack (this can play havov for any band, so bear this in mind the next time you are slagging off a support band), this cannot take away from the beauty of the songs.

Penny Century may very well have made one of the best albums of the year in their debut Between A Hundred Lies. I utterly fell for them when I heard their album, and now I fall for them all over again. They look so cool and sound so confident. 'Too Bitter To Be Charming' opens the album and it's ironic, given just how goddamn charming they are, both onstage and off. Live they rock much harder than they do on record (they told me in an interview that they plan their next album to sound more rocky). 'Between A Hundred Lies' has a soulful edge that doesn't come across so much on record. And of course 'When the City Is waking up' just melts you. Damn you guys!

An excellent night out from three bands who deserve to be playing bigger venues and taking up residence on your CD player. Penny Century and The Amateurs albums can be ordered from Letterbox Records. There will be interviews with all three acts on here very soon.

mp3s of the bands concerned:

Penny Century -'Nothing Burns Like Bridges.' mp3

Penny Century -'What I never Learned To Say.' mp3

The Amateurs -'Cool By Me.' mp3

The Amateurs -'Things You Only Know If You Don't Drive.' mp3

Katie Sutherland -'Because I Do.' mp3

Katie Sutherland -'The Roses.' mp3